Shark migration comes early to Florida's coast

Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-15 17:00:06-05
Right now tens of thousands of black tip sharks are migrating off the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
The phenomenon was caught on camera by scientists with a lab at Florida Atlantic University, which tracks the movement of these sharks.
The sight was rare for two reasons: The migration is happening earlier in the year than usual and was happening extremely close to the shoreline.
These sharks were, literally, a stone's throw away from the coast.
"They follow the food, they follow the bait fish," said Eric Hovland, an associate curator with the Florida Aquarium.
Hovland also describes himself as a shark enthusiast and said he too was surprised by what he saw in the video posted by FAU over the weekend.
Warmer water from El Nino is a possible cause for the early-season migration. February is very early for sharks to be moving north, but Hovland suspects climate change and warming waters all over the world may also be a possible cause.
"It may show a trend is changing in that, again, it's only February, it should be cold out, water temps should be a little cooler. So it could definitely be part of the data that says we're seeing changes," Hovland tells ABC Action News.
"Are their migrations patterns changing? Are they moving back North earlier in the year when we would typically see them, maybe more towards spring," Hovland said.
Hovland also has advice for anyone going to the beach in Florida right now.
"Stay away from a school of fish and don't go out at night or dusk or dawn or all those times.
"Those are dinner times for sharks, and it's best to be at home having your own dinner at that time," adds Hovland with a smile.
The black tip shark is normally about 6 feet long and is often the culprit of shark bites in the waters around Florida.
No large migrations of sharks have been spotted recently in the Tampa Bay area but the warm water may bring wildlife to this Gulf side of the state soon as well.